Denial is the way we handle what we cannot handle. - Shannon L. Alder

He wandered past the display several times, glancing at the rows of cards before moving down the aisle, around the corner, eventually ending up in front of the display once again. He didn't actually look at individual cards. He knew he wouldn't choose any of the humorous ones. He wasn't confident enough for that. One day, maybe. Not this time.

Same with the religious ones. He had no idea if they even shared the belief, let alone which flavor. They hadn't had enough conversations to get to that sort of thing.

A lot of things they hadn't gotten to yet.

He took a deep breath, letting it out slowly. He didn't normally go this route. Holidays, sure - buy a couple boxes, write a generic message, send them off. Nobody really cared what you wrote, or even what the card looked like. Just a reminder that you were still alive and hoped they were, too. Birthdays were different, though. Typically meant a dinner out, maybe a concert or the theater, and then...

But this was a completely different situation. He wasn't even sure if he should. It was almost like he was taking the relationship to a deeper level, maybe one she wasn't ready for yet. Hell, maybe he wasn't either. Maybe that was why he'd thought of a card. Give her time to think.

He stepped closer, now checking individual cards, though not bothering to look inside them. Mushy ones went the way of humor and religious. That was definitely not the point they were at.

Maybe that was the biggest problem. He wasn't exactly sure what point they were at. It had been strained at first - phone calls, hesitant, staying at arm's length, moving gradually into the 'so what's your favorite color' level of curiosity. Still, it was progress.

But then they'd arranged to get together again. Sitting in a park, both nervous yet eager, watching some kids playing on the monkey bars. Starting to relax, she'd told him how she'd fallen off one, broken her arm, her mother bouncing between anxious and furious. More anecdotes about her childhood, her mother. Then she'd started talking about Bancroft, and the bitterness came back... and then that sudden awkward silence.

Face understood the bitterness. No matter how often they'd each told themselves they were over it, it still came pushing through now and again. Time was all they needed. But he didn't like her believing her bitterness was petty. Just because she thought he'd had it worse. He didn't want pity. He'd had a different life, but worse? Okay, yeah, sometimes he felt envious that she'd at least known her parents. He could get over that. He would.

Another deep sigh and he finally started reading the cards. He'd find just the right one and write a careful note, let her know that meeting was just a little speed bump. They could still build their own little family. That he still wanted that, knew she did too.

He'd convince them both.